The two top-ranked 185-pounders on the planet squared off last night (July 6, 2013) as UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva looked to defend his title against unbeaten Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 162 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Up until last night, Silva had been unstoppable inside the UFC cage. Sixteen fights, sixteen victories. Each one nearly more impressive than the last. But as Chaucer once said, "All good things must come to an end."
Last night was Anderson Silva's final night as UFC champion. So how did Chris Weidman pull it off?
"The All-American" initially took control of the cage center as Silva danced on the outside. Weidman was hesitant to strike at first, instead looking for an opening to take "The Spider" down. He found it 30 seconds into the bout, quickly shooting in before Silva could react and while he wasn't able to lock his hands together with the double leg, he was still able to get low enough with enough leverage to lift the champ up and put him on his back.
Once on the canvas, Weidman immediately went into attack mode, scoring with a heavy right hand and working some ground and pound before closing the distance and attempting to pass guard. Weidman did an excellent job of softening Silva up with lefts, rights and left elbows which nearly opened up a pass to side control but he gave up on it.
Instead, Weidman made his first blunder, trying to pull a Ryo Chonan and attack Silva with a surprise leg lock. Unfortunately for Weidman, this was not the Silva of 2004 and the Brazilian was able to twist free of danger.
This was where the clowning began. Silva dropped his hands, egging on Weidman to initiate, even backing himself into the fence and motioning Weidman in just like his prior fight against Stephan Bonnar. But Weidman wasn't Bonnar or Yushin Okami and he connected with a decent left hand.
Silva probably should have stopped there, but instead he put his hands on his hips, dodging strikes but again eating a right hand from Weidman before brushing it off like it was nothing. It was after the right hand that Silva started opening up with strikes of his own, scoring with a jab and some crisp leg kicks which landed before Weidman could even react.
To his credit, Weidman also showcased respectable head movement, forcing some of Silva's lead right hands to glance off rather than hit him with full force.
In the second round, Silva again motioned for Weidman to "bring it" and Weidman stepped up to the plate, firing off a quick left and right hand that grazed the champ. Silva's response was to pretend to be wobbled and fire right back.
With Silva dancing on the outside, Weidman attempted to take him down again but he shot in from too far away and Silva was easily able to grab an underhook and deny him. Both men traded kicks but Weidman connected with a lead left hand. Silva again chose to fake being hurt and Weidman stepped forward with a big right hand, then a right back fist that forced Silva slightly off balance.
The brief instant of vulnerability was all Weidman needed as he launched a left hook that caught the taunting champion square on the chin, knocking him senseless. Silva dropped to the canvas and Weidman pounced with heavy ground and pound, forcing referee Herb Dean to intervene and put a stop to the action.
Chris Weidman is the new UFC Middleweight Champion.
For Anderson Silva, it's easy to say he brought this on himself, but there's so much more to it than that. Yes, he taunted Weidman, but he'd gotten away with it against everyone from Forrest Griffin to Demian Maia to Stephan Bonnar to Yushin Okami. The big difference this time? Weidman's pure one-punch power (which we hadn't really even seen yet). Silva relies on a lot of pure reflex to avoid getting hit, ducking, swaying and dodging a wide array of his opponent's strikes, but his tendency to roll with the punches was his downfall last night.
Silva loves to move with the strikes thrown his direction so even if they land, the blows aren't felt nearly as much. This works great against limited MMA strikers who tend to throw all their combinations with alternating left and right hands. While Weidman is far from a technician on the feet, the finish to the bout included a left hand a right, a right back fist and then a left hook which connected clean. It was the doubling up of the right hands that confused Silva just enough to connect with the left.
Look at the above picture. This was immediately after Weidman threw the right back fist and was loading up the left hand. Silva is already leaned back nearly as far as he can go and his feet are in no position to dodge the left hook. He tries to sway backwards and to the right but Weidman has been stepping forward with every blow thrown and he's now close enough to connect. Silva had nowhere to go but to sleep.
For all you conspiracy theorists out there, no, Anderson Silva did not lose on purpose. If he wanted out so bad, he would have tapped when Weidman went for the kneebar. He simply fought the way he has routinely fought in his recent bouts but he did it against a young, powerful and talented opponent who made him pay.
Next up for Silva could be a wide variety of opponents. UFC obviously wants an immediate rematch against Weidman, but if he doesn't want to do that, he could always do that boxing match against Roy Jones Jr. Another potential option would be to take on recent two-time UFC title challenger Nick Diaz. That's definitely the type of fight Diaz would come out of retirement for and the potential for mid-fight taunting and trash talk would be insane.
For Chris Weidman, he fought brilliantly and this was far from a fluke. Yes, he took advantage of Silva's overconfidence, but it's not like this was the first significant blow he'd landed the entire fight. He'd connected with heavy shots on the ground and he had scored with some decent blows on the feet as Silva danced and dodged around him on the outside.
The initial takedown was fantastic, but he really should have thought twice before surrendering the position to go for a leg lock. Silva is so much better now on the ground than he was in 2004 and that was a mistake that could have got him in much more trouble than it did. Also, his decision to stand and trade with Silva in the final two minutes of the first round was odd. He was playing right into Silva's game, but thankfully never overcommitted to anything and left himself open to an easy counter.
When he hurt Silva with the left hook, his killer instinct kicked in and he finished the champ off immediately. It was a fantastic performance.
Next up for Weidman is potentially a Silva rematch, although the now ex-champ has stated he doesn't want to fight for the title again. If that's the case, you'd think Vitor Belfort would be next in line after his stellar recent performances.